After a two-year pregnancy, the wait is over for the Houston Zoo’s Asian Elephant, Shanti. On July 12, the 26-year-old gave birth to a 305-pound female.
The calf has been named Joy by the zoo team that has dedicated their lives to the care, wellbeing, and conservation of these incredible animals.
Baby elephants are quite wobbly when they’re first born, so the harness seen on the images and video of Joy assists the elephant team to help her stand-steady while she’s nursing.
Shanti gave birth in the Houston Zoo’s McNair Asian Elephant Habitat cow barn under the supervision of keepers and veterinary staff. She and her calf underwent post-natal exams and are now spending several days bonding behind the scenes. During this important bonding period, the elephant team is watching for the pair to share key moments like communication and hitting weight goals.
“Our animal team is thrilled that the birth has gone smoothly,” said Lisa Marie Avendano, Vice President of Animal Operations at the Houston Zoo. “We look forward to continuing to watch Joy and Shanti bond, and introducing her to Houston.”
Since 1986, the species has been listed as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The population has declined by at least 50 percent over the last three generations. Primary threats are degradation, fragmentation, loss of habitat, and poaching.
*By visiting the Houston Zoo, guests help save baby elephants and their families in the wild. A portion of each zoo admission and membership goes straight to protecting an estimated 200-250 wild elephants in Asia.
Since the Houston Zoo started its work in Borneo in 2007, there has been a doubling of the elephant population on the island. The Houston Zoo also provides funds for elephant conservationist, Nurzhafarina “Farina” Othman and her team in Asia, to put tracking collars on wild elephants. This group uses collars to follow wild elephants, conducting valuable research that aids in protecting the elephants as they travel through the forests. Farina also spends time working with farmers that grow and produce palm oil, offering her guidance in responsible cultivation practices that are wildlife-friendly.
Palm oil is an ingredient in many foods and cosmetics, typically grown in areas that were previously home to animals like wild elephants. Converting pristine forests into oil palm plantations has caused extensive deforestation across Southeast Asia. Luckily, a growing number of producers are working to protect these areas and the animals that live there.
The Houston Zoo encourages people to protect elephants in the wild by supporting companies that use responsibly sourced palm oil, increasing demand for palm oil that is grown and produced without destroying the forested homes of elephants.